Critics cheer for Chitty
BBC - 17/04/02~
James Bond novelist Ian Fleming created the flying car
The ambitious £6m musical adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opened in London's West End to largely positive reviews from newspaper critics.
The car itself drew the most praise for its ability to "fly" over the heads of the audience, with The Guardian reporting "gasps of astonished delight".
Most reviews confirm the "car really is the star".
The first night standing ovation ensured critics knew how much the audience had enjoyed the spectacle.
The Times' Benedict Nightingale wrote: "If Chitty the car is waterproof, gravity-proof and accident-proof, Chitty the musical is certainly critic-proof."
But he was not impressed with all of the performance and found it too sickly-sweet in parts.
"I would have liked a more exciting rescue scene - the movie is far stronger here - and a Bomburst who rears, cackles and jumps about less ostentatiously than Brian Blessed, who is a less funny actor than he thinks," he added.
Simon Edge of the Express was more effusive. "You can tell from the moment the audience starts clapping along with the main theme of the overture that this one is going to be a winner. And it proves to be."
Charles Spencer of the Telegraph admitted he was never a fan of the film and found the stage adaptation "cynical" and lacking the "originality" of The Lion King.
"It has been designed, with all the ingenuity of Caractacus Pott's inventions, as a machine to make money," he wrote.
Due to the current fashion for turning films into musicals it was not surprising comparisons would be drawn.
The Guardian's Michael Billington praised the producers of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for a successful adaptation.
"Everyone is at it - turning popular movies into stage musicals. In this show, unlike The Full Monty, the result is in almost every respect superior to the original," he said.
"The result is a musical with that quality of ecstasy one always looks for in the genre and rarely finds."
Self-confessed non-lover of musicals Kevin O'Sullivan of The Daily Mirror found himself captivated.
"As is common in the musical format, some of the drama veered towards the pantomime but when the action showed the merest hint of dragging, up popped Chitty and there we all were - back in a child-like world of magic.
But the critic from The Daily Mail, Michael Coveney, was less than blown away by the new show.
"Mr Ball sings Hushabye Mountain, the best ballad, with real charm and relish. But he has little to do.
"And there is something finally unsatisfactory about a show that pleases so easily but fails to be a great musical."